Music to our ears: CYC nurtures beats and harmonies

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It’s been a bright era for music at CYC the past few months as our partnership with the Merit School of Music has expanded and our Maker Studio at CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center has nurtured blossoming interests in music production.

As the Chicago Sun-Times and ABC 7 Chicago recently reported, the violin classes provided through the Merit School of Music at CYC-Rebecca K. Crown Youth Center have served students who would likely not have another opportunity to play violin.

 Instructor Elisabeth Johnson watches as India Mabon, 9, goes thru a violin exercise Tuesday at the Crown Center in South Shore. The students are working on different rhythms. | Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

Instructor Elisabeth Johnson watches as India Mabon, 9, goes thru a violin exercise Tuesday at the Crown Center in South Shore. The students are working on different rhythms. | Leslie Adkins/For the Sun-Times

Breanna, an 8-year-old at CYC-Crown, began learning to play the violin after her parents found out about the partnership between CYC and Merit. Breanna told the Sun-Times that the violin has encouraged her to be organized and set higher academic goals.

“The sense of accomplishment from playing gives her so much confidence and really increases who she is as a person,” her father, Randall, told the Sun-Times.

In many of the communities CYC serves, music instruction is not a readily available resource. Preliminary results from an ongoing study conducted by Northwestern University Auditory Neuroscience Laboratories shows that “music instruction not only improves children’s communication skills, attention, and memory, but that it may even close the academic gap between rich and poor students,” according to a 2013 article by The Atlantic.

Last October, our partnership with Merit School of Music expanded to CYC-Sidney Epstein Youth Center to include choir lessons. The participating youth, which also includes children from CYC-Fellowship House, have been attending weekly rehearsals. In December, they performed songs that focus on strength and self-esteem.

At CYC-Elliott Donnelley Youth Center, the new Maker Studio has become a hub for teens looking for a creative outlet.

Since the studio, funded by the NBCUniversal Foundation, opened, teen participation at the Center has quadrupled.

This fall, the Maker Studio became home to two projects: another session of the photography program, and “Teen YOU in the Stu,” a time for CYC teens to create unique compositions with the music equipment. While working in the space, CYC teens create beats using programs like Garage Band and then develop raps and spoken word lyrics to accompany the beat. The enthusiasm for this has been contagious and has truly allowed for students’ natural creativity to flourish.

For Kandia, one of the teens who has begun frequenting the Maker Studio, it a special space because “it was given to us by people who are interested about our future and want us to succeed.”

Kandia, who is now interested in pursuing a career in media, said she does not have access to the Maker Studio equipment outside of CYC and that just being exposed to the equipment has given her a feel for how to use the studio properly.

The nature of the programming and activities in the Maker Studio pushes youth to develop the ‘Four C’s’: communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. These social-emotional skills are necessary for success in the modern workplace.